Capitals stay­ing mea­sured de­spite limited picks in draft

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY MATTHEW PARAS

The Wash­ing­ton Capitals don’t have picks in the first three rounds of this week’s NHL Draft, but as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager Ross Ma­honey said Mon­day they’ve been pre­par­ing as if they have them.

“You never know what’s go­ing to hap­pen be­tween now and when the draft starts,” Ma­honey said. “There’s al­ways move­ment that goes on where you can ac­quire picks . ... Dur­ing the year, we made sure we had enough cov­er­age in case some­thing does hap­pen and we do ac­quire a first or sec­ond or third.”

Ma­honey, though, didn’t re­veal if the Capitals will make a push to ac­quire a bet­ter pick, only say­ing they would make a trade if it made sense. The NHL Draft takes place in Chicago on Fri­day and Satur­day and the Capitals will have their first pick in the fourth round, 120th over­all.

But Ma­honey ac­knowl­edged the Capitals can still find tal­ent pick­ing in the later rounds. He pointed to Wash­ing­ton’s past se­lec­tions of goal­tenders Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer, both of whom were picked in the fourth round.

The Capitals will have four picks in the seven-round draft.

“There’s play­ers there,” Ma­honey said. “It’s up to us as an ama­teur staff to make sure we get a cou­ple of those play­ers. Hope­fully they play for the Capitals one day.”

The Capitals find them­selves in this sit­u­a­tion be­cause of trades meant to help po­ten­tially win the Stan­ley Cup. At the trade dead­line last sea­son, gen­eral man­ager Brian MacLel­lan traded a 2017 first-round pick, Zach San­ford, Brad Malone and a con­di­tional 2019 pick to the St. Louis Blues for de­fense­man Kevin Shat­tenkirk and goal­tender Pheonix Co­p­ley.

MacLel­lan also sent a pair of sec­on­dround picks in 2017 and 2018 to the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens last sum­mer for cen­ter Lars Eller. And in the 2015-16 sea­son, MacLel­lan traded a 2017 third-round pick to the Buf­falo Sabres for de­fense­man Mike We­ber.

“Yeah, I mean it’s frus­trat­ing we don’t have a cou­ple high-end picks here in the draft,” MacLel­lan said last month. “A lot of it’s frus­trat­ing. I mean we spent a lot of cap­i­tal try­ing to win a cham­pi­onship this year and it didn’t come to fruition.”

In 2011, the Capitals were also miss­ing their first three picks — and the prospects they did pick have yet to play a sin­gle game in the NHL.

Mid­dle and later-round picks, in gen­eral, can be a crap­shoot. Not help­ing mat­ters is the gen­eral con­sen­sus is that this year’s draft class is “weak.” A scout told the Toronto Star that the crop of play­ers “is av­er­age” and Van­cou­ver Canucks GM Jim Ben­ning said the draft was miss­ing “gen­er­a­tional” tal­ent. USA To­day called this year’s draft class unin­spir­ing. Ma­honey isn’t wor­ried.

“We make these pre­dic­tions all the time in the ama­teur side and it seems like the same amount of play­ers usu­ally make the NHL every year,” Ma­honey said. “Some of the drafts we think will end up strong end up be­ing a lit­tle weak, or vice versa . ... Some years there could be a lit­tle more depth than oth­ers. I would say this year there’s still go­ing to be plenty of play­ers ... avail­able for where we’re pick­ing.”

The wild card in all of this is Wed­nes­day’s ex­pan­sion draft for the Ve­gas Golden Knights. Ve­gas GM Ge­orge McPhee told re­porters that Mon­day would be the fi­nal day for teams to ne­go­ti­ate side deals to pro­tect play­ers left un­pro­tected in this year’s ex­pan­sion draft.

As a re­sult, the draft or­der could change if teams give Ve­gas ex­tra picks to ei­ther keep or re-trade away. Teams will have to re­act ac­cord­ingly.

“I’m sure there will be some late nights com­ing for a lot of teams (this) week,” Ma­honey said.

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